Considering a gluten-free diet

The gluten-free diet is not just a fad. People with celiac disease must eat food without the protein gluten. In addition, people with nonceliac gluten sensitivity can benefit from the diet. The diet requires followers to become gluten detectives, looking for the ingredients wheat, rye, or barley and their derivatives on food labels. It also requires looking for gluten in hidden sources, such as natural flavorings and even medicines. More »

Ask the doctor: What to take for shingles pain

People who have shingles can take famciclovir and valacyclovir to kill the virus and alleviate pain. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and acetaminophen may also be added. The use of glucocorticoid medicines for pain is debated. (Locked) More »

Physical vs. mental activity

Physical activity and mental stimulation are both considered vital for protecting your mental skills and warding off dementia. Many studies have shown consistently that regular exercise can increase the volume of brain regions important for memory and thinking. There is also abundant evidence that mental activity maintains cognitive health. A modest amount of aerobic exercise is sufficient to produce positive cognitive results. Many studies have employed regimens of moderate-intensity walking three days a week. For mental activity, doctors recommend activities that require active engagement, such as reading or crossword puzzles, not passive engagement, such as watching television. (Locked) More »

Bypass better than stenting for diabetics?

For people who have both diabetes and several blocked heart arteries, bypass surgery (rerouting blood flow around a clogged artery) may have a better result than stenting (widening the heart artery by inserting a tube called a stent near the blockage). It appears that bypass surgery results in fewer heart attacks and deaths than stenting. Bypass surgery may also reduce the likelihood of return trips to the hospital to fix new blockages. (Locked) More »

Arthroscopic shoulder surgery

Arthroscopy is a popular technique for shoulder surgery. It allows a surgeon to look inside the shoulder joint and operate without making a large incision. Arthroscopy is recommended most often to repair torn rotator cuff tendons (which keep the arm bone in the shoulder socket), dislocated shoulders, and torn ligaments, as well as to remove bone spurs and loose cartilage. To find a surgeon, go to specialists in shoulder medicine and sports medicine who have experience doing the surgery on a daily basis. (Locked) More »

Watch out for the "salty six"

The American Heart Association recommends staying away from foods with high sodium content, including canned soup, breads and rolls, cold cuts and cured meats, pizza, poultry, and sandwiches. People 51 and older should consume no more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium daily. To cut out sodium, read food labels and eat less packaged food, stick to fresh foods, skip salting your food at the table, and ask that salt be withheld from your meals at restaurants. (Locked) More »

Prevent peripheral artery disease

Peripheral artery disease has four main risk factors: smoking, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes. The more risk factors one accumulates, the higher the risk, and the severity of risk factors increases risk. Developing all four of the risk factors can increase PAD risk to 75%. Avoiding all four risk factors can eliminate many cases of PAD before they start. Treating PAD involves quitting smoking; controlling diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure; and sometimes surgery to improve blood flow. (Locked) More »

New pill better targets rheumatoid arthritis

In November 2012 the FDA approved tofacitinib (Xeljanz), a potent new treatment for people with rheumatoid arthritis. Methotrexate, taken orally, is the first line of defense. Doctors also prescribe injectable biologic therapies (Enbrel, Humira) that quiet certain inflammatory cytokines. The new drug, which comes as a pill, targets another type of inflammatory molecule than do the two biologics. The new drug has a short-term safety profile similar to the biologic therapies, with a slightly higher rate of shingles. (Locked) More »

Stop leg wounds that don't heal

Venous leg ulcers—open skin wounds that don’t go away—usually occur on the inner side of the leg between the ankle and mid-calf. They are the final stage in the progression of venous disease. Treatment involves compressing the swelling out of the leg using either bandages or compression stockings with dressings on top of the broken skin. Ultimately the underlying venous disease must be treated to prevent the ulcers from recurring. This is done in the doctor’s office, using a catheter procedure to collapse the faulty vein from the inside. Wearing compression stockings may also be an option. (Locked) More »

Are painkillers also killing your hearing?

Frequent and long-term use of pain relievers, such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or acetaminophen (Tylenol), may be a risk factor for hearing loss. Researchers say the pain relievers may damage the cochlea, the snail-shaped hearing mechanism in the inner ear. Ibuprofen can reduce blood flow to the cochlea, which could result in cellular damage and cell death. Acetaminophen may deplete the antioxidant glutathione, which protects the cochlea from damage. It’s important to take these medications mindfully and to limit their use as much as possible. (Locked) More »

What you should know about: Magnesium

The main reason to take a magnesium supplement is a documented low body magnesium, usually identified by a low blood level. A normal blood level range is 1.7 to 2.2 milligrams per deciliter. To maintain a healthy magnesium level, it’s best to get the mineral from food, especially dark, leafy green vegetables, unrefined grains, and legumes. The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of magnesium from food is 420 milligrams (mg) per day for men ages 50 and older and 320 mg/day for women ages 50 and older. The RDA for magnesium from a supplement is lower: 350 mg/day for men and women. (Locked) More »

New thinking on migraine triggers

Suspected triggers for migraine with aura may not be as strong as some people think. Research suggests that a person who experiences migraines with aura can cross a trigger off the list if exposure to it for three months doesn't cause a problem. (Locked) More »